Culture Interviews

ToD Interview: SQA, A Black Yogi Enlightening Souls

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Yoga is a practice that some think is easy or meaningless because all you have to do is pose but these people have never tried yoga. Yoga goes beyond posing on a mat-it truly is a lifestyle that changes your entire outlook. Within the past year I started my own journey of practicing yoga and one day an associate of mine on Twitter linked me to a young woman who has received her certification in yoga and is headed by changing lives with her practice. She is Winston Salem, NC native, SQA. Leading a healthy lifestyle has always been apart of her but it wasn’t until a few years ago she started to take it seriously. She now hosts classes and events helping others to start their journey into enlightenment and even has an informative website filled with inspiration and playlists to guide you. Below, SQA touches on how she got started with yoga, how she carries her parents lessons into her practice, how American society can become better through yoga, opening a yoga school and more.

ToD: What was your journey like getting into yoga?

S: I began my yoga practice in 2013 with an Instagram challenge. I’ve dabbled in yoga all throughout my life, but it wasn’t until 2013 when I started taking it seriously and learning more of the postures. Before I began yoga I would workout from time to time, but neither working out or yoga was a very consistent practice. I dedicated one year to working out consistently in 2013, which was successful. I also began taking weekly yoga classes at my gym, which helped me begin to learn more about the practice. It was then I discovered my first favorite yoga teacher, Brittany, a black woman.

ToD: Have you always lived a healthy lifestyle?

S: For the most part I’ve always lived a healthy lifestyle. As a kid I grew up watching FitTV, working out for hours on end to different fitness shows. Gilad’s “Bodies In Motion” was my favorite – it gave me the most intense workout. Yoga was sprinkled in the FitTV segments here and there, so I would participate when it came on too.

ToD: Did you grow up in a religious household? If so, how was the transition from religion to spirituality for you?

S: Somewhat. My family went to church from time to time. I’ve always said I was faithful, and had faith, but it was not until I started manifesting that I truly began to trust my faith. To me, manifesting helped put action towards my faith, which in turn leaves me more peaceful and assured. Now when I say I have faith, I have no doubts or worry – manifesting helped mold my mindset for that.

 

ToD: What are some things your parents taught you while growing up that you incorporate into yoga?

S: One thing my mom always taught me was compromise. I was an only child, but when I was six my aunt had my cousin which introduced a new member to our family. In order for us to get along, my mom taught me that I would have to compromise. I learned early on what being the bigger person was all about and from it how I could create cohesion and peace. Of course I didn’t understand those things until I got older, but it was a lesson nonetheless. I can relate that to yoga because for me, yoga is just as beneficial off the mat as it is on. Through life we encounter many obstacles, triggers and stressors where we are not in control. It is up to us to decide how we want to react to that. Yoga has taught me that you can still be the bigger person, and compromise when life seems like it doesn’t want to cooperate. Instead of getting angry when life doesn’t go my way, I choose to react in a calm manner, understanding that what I put out, I’ll get back.

ToD: What is your favorite and hardest position and why?

S: My favorite position is actually savasana (corpse pose). I love savasana because it is the final pose of a class. Yoga is pretty intense, and there are times I am really challenged and feel like I might not make it through the class. Once savasana comes around it’s like the best reward. I am finally allowed to be still, let go, relax and let tranquility take over. It’s hard to describe what I feel like during savasana, but to me, it’s a very meditative state, as if I am floating through space. During savasana nothing else matters but still, and it feels awesome. Once you try savasana in aerial yoga – oh my gosh, just thank me later! The hardest pose for me is probably mayurasana (peacock pose). It’s a pretty intense pose that works your wrists, forearms, core, back and even your legs. I haven’t successfully mastered getting my legs off the ground just yet.

ToD: Do you think as an American society, if yoga (plus meditation) was mandatory, do you think it would solve a lot of our problems?

S: Absolutely. We are not taught how to deal with our thoughts, or how to navigate life as a good human. Sure we learn skills and trades, but we don’t go to class and read books on compassion and self-care. Yoga is about so much more than what you do on the mat, and it truly is a lifestyle. When I tell people that yoga has changed my life, the last thing I’m thinking about is how I’m able to do a headstand. I’m thinking about how yoga has taught me to breathe and really slow down and absorb and observe life. Because of yoga I no longer have intense road rage, I spread love easier, I even see the good in negative situations a lot clearer. Meditation has also been a very important asset to my life. Meditation doesn’t teach you how to be void of thought, but how to decide how you will react to them, becoming more mindful and present. For example, the eight limbs of Patanjali are guidelines to living a purposeful and meaningful life.

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ToD: Do you believe there is a spike of “hype” around yoga? How could you guide people into practicing yoga and meditation for the right reasons and not just because everyone else is doing it?

S: Sure, there may be some spike. I believe it’s because we are able to share more, so we get these messages everywhere – our phones, TV, pretty much anywhere you look. Being healthy is becoming something that’s “cool”, more accessible, and easier to do – so it’s no wonder yoga has a lot of attention. Yoga is life changing, and so is meditation, the two go hand in hand. Everyone’s reason for starting yoga or meditation is different, so I would honestly tell someone to just begin the practice. The reason you come to the mat is usually not the same reason you stay.

ToD: When people think of enlightenment, they mainly only think of it only being for themselves. How do you want to enlighten your community beyond yoga?

S: Oh my goodness. I want to help my community discover that wellness is something that can be attained and should be a priority. I aim to educate people about wellness in many forms, from the foods you eat and what you drink, to physical activity, green beauty, and mental health. We live in a culture that is comfortable with fast – everything. I believe yoga and meditation can help be that gateway to mindfulness so people start to feel good about stopping to check the ingredients list on food and products, or take that extra hour for self-care. I truly hope to inspire healthier lifestyles all around.

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ToD: If you could open your yoga school tomorrow, what are some essentials you must have in your studio?

S: Let’s see, if I could open up my own yoga school tomorrow, some essentials I’d have in my yoga studio would be dope music at all times, incense and candles, soft lighting, paintings, statues and more artwork from local artists, diversity and positive vibrations and good energy. I like to make sure all the senses are covered, from the scent, to temperature, to lighting. I’d also want my studio to foster a welcoming environment, a place where you go and feel like you’re surrounded by family. Those elements are key essentials for me. Oh, and I can’t forget silk straps for aerial yoga, which is my new favorite thing!

ToD: Name one place in the world you would love to practice yoga and mediate.

S: Bali. I’ve seen so many beautiful retreats there, I feel like it’d be a magical experience.

ToD: What are some tips on starting yoga?

S: Join an Instagram challenge. It’s an easy and free way to be held accountable for committing to the practice daily. You learn lots of poses and it’s nice tracking your progress to see how far you’ve come.

SQA wants to leave everyone with these mantras: 

The journey awakens the soul.

Change your perspective, change your life.

Spread love, be love.

Let those resonate. Namaste.

Follow SQA on Twitter.

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